Fallen Tree Engulfs Van; Driver Escapes Unharmed

Patti Piscitelli PhotoStacey Rose, a concert pianist, was driving down Highland Avenue during Friday’s Nor’easter with her dog Louie, never expecting that her van would be engulfed in a huge falling tree.

“All I remember is hearing and feeling a tremendous crash on my car. I screamed. Louie bolted to the back seat,” she told the Eagle Saturday morning. “The tree fell on my hood and my front windshield smashed. My immediate instinct was to cover my head.” She said the huge tree was on property at the corner of Highland and Clark Avenues. The tree fell from the driver’s side.

It was about 2:35 p.m. 

Louie, the poodle, was seated in the passenger seat when the tree hit. “Louie was scared,” she said. But she got him to move from the back seat and they maneuvered their way out of the car. It wasn’t easy.

“I didn’t realize it right then but I had glass in my hair from the windshield.” Her door didn’t open and neither did a sliding door. She managed to get to the passenger side and open the door slightly. Then she was able to crawl out onto the road. She quickly became entangled in the branches from the tree. Somehow she managed to reach back into the car, grab Louie’s leash and get him out from the back seat. First Louie felt glass on his paw and backed off, but he finally came with her.

With PermissionShe checked her hands. They were fine. Here she is at the piano on stage at Carnegie Hall last June. 

It soon became clear there was even more damage.  A utility pole had snapped at the corner, causing a blackout for many homes in the area. While other streets in Short Beach had power, a section of Short Beach, with roughly 25 homes remained without power until mid- Sunday afternoon. Both internet and cable television connections were down for about two days. 

Marcia Chambers PhotoBy Saturday morning another large tree had uprooted and fallen onto Rose’s Honda. A tree service waited for Eversource to give the okay to remove the tree, but Eversource had not showed up by midday Saturday. Frontier trucks were parked nearby. They, too, waited. 

Just a Trip to the Supermarket

At the time of the terrifying experience, Rose was on her way to the supermarket to pick up food for dinner with her husband and grand-kids that evening. The wind was strong. She was headed down Highland and was about to make a left turn onto Clark Avenue when the tree uprooted and smashed into her car. 

David Perkins PhotoApparently hours of heavy rain and surging wind had weakened the tree, which was located on a corner lot owned by Yale University. The property is diagonally across the way from the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club, Yale’s sailing center. The property, which contains several houses, has been vacant for about four years.

Trapped for a few minutes in her car under the tree, Rose tried to open her car door. “I couldn’t. I turned off the car. It was raining heavily.

“I flashed my lights when I saw another car at the corner. I wanted to let the driver know I was okay.” Karl Swanson, a neighbor who lives at the corner of Clark and Highland Avenues, heard the noise. “I put my boots on and I came out of the house. I shouted to her. “Be careful,” I said. “There might be a live wire there! Then I called 911. The electric pole was already down,” he told the Eagle.

Rose said there was no way he could get to her. “There was no way through to the car.” 

She heard him. Although stunned, she quickly assessed her situation.

Slowly she ducked under the wires that had fallen from the electric pole. Then she and Louie maneuvered around the tree limbs and wires.

Meanwhile, Patti Brill-Piscitelli, who lives on Clark Avenue, was in her car approaching the corner of Clark and Highland when she came upon Rose’s van enveloped in the tree. She saw the flashing lights. There were branches and wires all around, she later told the Eagle. Piscitelli also called for emergency help.

Rose told Piscitelli that that she was fine. “A lot happened so fast,” Rose said, adding it was then that she discovered the glass in her hair. The next day she discovered a piece of glass in her arm.

With PermissionLooking back, she said, “We were very, very lucky,” she said.

Rose told the Eagle that another good Samaritan gave her and Louie a ride to her house. A few minutes later an ambulance crew in a fire truck arrived. She spent time in the fire truck, catching her breath. She praised the crew for their aid. 

“I am grateful that I am okay. I am also grateful that my hair is not curlier from the wires,“ she said laughing.

With PermissionWhile she and her neighbors awaited the restoration of power, one brave dog was taking it easy. Louie slept in on Saturday morning.  “He seems no worse for the wear,” his mom reported. (See photo below.) 

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